This is part of a series of posts that document some of my personal thoughts on some of the myths surrounding 1:1 learning (one device per learner) and 1:1 deployments in schools and school systems.
Myth 3 – 1:1 Computing Improves Standards
Nonsense! Only good learning and teaching improves standards.
A poor teacher with great technology will still not deliver the results that our children deserve.
However, I truly believe that a good or excellent teacher, who is committed to professional learning and who is supported by great technology has the potential to transform lives. It is also important to remember that technology is only part of any model for educational transformation.
Now, there are lots of models of educational transformation available, they are all high level and they are all useful up to a point. Lets take the Intel model of education transformation as an example – as this is the one that I have been working with the most recently.
In this model for transformation to occur a number of things need to exist in equal parts.
First you need good policy (at national, local and school level) this is the bit that gives teachers and school leaders permission to transform education. A key failing of most education policy is that people don’t actually understand the policy or have time to read them. Good education policy must contain specific objectives as well as higher level strategic advice. In short, people need to know which way they are aiming!
Good policy also gives permission to develop the curriculum and assessment methodology. Again the two must match up. You can’t have high level policy that talks about preparing children for life in the 3rd millennium and then develop a curriculum that re-invents something from the past and its only way of verifying children’s learning is by a hand written assessment when they are about to leave school – this just does not make sense.
Policy, curriculum and new assessment methodology must be based on sound academic and action research. But it must also be based on local need.
Evaluation must be on-going at a system, state and local level. Most of this type of resource should be put into evaluation at a local level – rather than a state or system level that it is at the moment. While comparing one country to another country through standard measures such as PISA might be important to politicians – what is actually going on in the classroom must remain the most important thing.
Technology integration should be seen at a number of levels but also people need to understand it can fulfill a variety of purposes. The following purposes are not inclusive but people need to understand that technology has a number of roles in educational transformation.
Firstly, the use of technology as a pedagogical methodology to support teaching and learning across the curriculum. Good technology integration is not just about up-grading computing labs. See my work on Exciting Learning.
Secondly, the use of technology to track learning, report to parents, improve the productivity & running of a school and to share data with others. Working at a conference with Michal Fullan recently I heard him say he thinks that school improvement can be sped up by at least 20% through good technology integration. I think he is right.
Thirdly, the use of technology to deliver appropriate rich digital content to learners. This content, where possible, should support local curriculum and national standards. Modern IT delivery systems should allow for personalization, guided learning and structured courses – all of which are appropriate at different times of a learners journey.
Fourthly, the use of technology to support assessment and evaluation (see above). Unfortunately, many technology solutions only cater for summative assessment. BUT, good technology integration can also be incredibly powerful in supporting formative assessment as well.
Lastly, the use of technology to support teacher professional development.
Teacher Professional Development (or Professional Learning) is another important aspect of educational transformation. In some systems technology integration (particularly around 1:1) have not been as successful as they could have been because of a lack of training for teachers (Thailand for example). Where others systems, such as Macedonia, built in robust training programs from the start.
It is also important to remember that professional learning doesn’t have to be face-to-face. Good professional development like any good learning needs to be blended and should include a combination of face-to-face, online, large group and personalized learning experiences. It is also important to remember that learning and teaching looks very different in a 1:1 environment than a traditional classroom environment. Educators need early support here to stop the technology becoming a distraction to rather than an improvement to learning.
In short, before any major investment in technology you need to be absolutely sure what it is you are trying to do. If your aim is to raise standards – what standards are you trying to raise and why? If improved use of technology the best way to do this do you have the policy, research, curriculum, assessment methodology and professional development in place to reach your objectives. If not your project is likely to fail.